Medical Marijuana For Pets Coming Soon To New York

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Photo Credit: AP

My friend wants to give her Labradoodle cannabis oil for her arthritis due to old age. She lives in Westchester County. If a New York State legislator has her way, my friend’s veterinarian may be able to prescribe her dog medical marijuana soon. Just last week the headlines “Pot for Pooches” and “Dope for Dogs” were everywhere. According to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, introduced legislation last week that would change New York law to allow veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to animals.

“Medical marijuana has helped countless people in the management and treatment of chronic and debilitating illnesses,” Paulin said in her bill. “Research suggests that animals can also benefit from cannabis use to similarly treat their ailments.”

The bill wants to amend the existing public health law to allow “animal” to be added to the list of “certified patient” and add “licensed veterinarian” to the list of “practitioners” who will be able to prescribe medical marijuana.

The bill goes on to say, “This legislation would authorize licensed veterinarians in the state to certify their animal patients to use medical marihuana for any medical condition that may benefit from such treatment. Animal owners and caregivers would therefore be given an alternative option to alleviate their pets’ pain. This could be helpful to many animals in need of relief, especially those that have chronic illnesses and for whom more traditional medical treatment has not proven to be effective. Other states, including Nevada and California, have introduced legislation regarding medical marihuana use for pets. Giving animals access to medical marihuana is a compassionate measure that will help in preventing unnecessary discomfort and suffering.”

This makes sense to me for two reasons. Owners spend somewhere in the vicinity of $65 billion per year on their pets. Based on these numbers, cost for marijuana treatment will not be an issue for most owners. And, there are many pets that do not do well on traditional medications due to side effects. If there is an alternative for their current treatment that is not working, owners will embrace it.

How does it work?

It’s important to know that treating your pet with medical marijuana is not as simple as splitting your cannabis-laced brownie with Fido. First off, because chocolate is toxic to dogs, but so is the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the stuff that makes people high and is psychoactive in dogs. But there are many other chemicals, or cannabinoids, and among them is CBD (cannabidiol), which offers the benefits without getting high.

There are several companies that have already developed canine cannabis products. Among them are: Treatibles chews made from hemp, a hemp-based product called Canna-Pet and a cannabis-based tincture called VETCBD, the later is only available in California dispensaries.

New York only started medical marijuana in smokeable forms for humans in January 2016. Recreational use will be studied further. Where does legalized marijuana use stand in Connecticut? Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2012 and is regulated by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the Medical Marijuana Program. There has been much talk lately about the possibilities of legalizing recreational marijuana as a way to raise much-needed revenue for the state.

Maybe the state legislature could follow New York as a way to raise some more revenue and help out pet owners who need an alternative treatment for their animals.

Veterinarians are split on effectiveness of marijuana on pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) doesn’t even address its medical use with pets and instead talks only about treating toxicity in animals that have ingested it. Here is AVMA’s statement from its website:

“Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, federally designated as a schedule I controlled substance. Despite this, more than half of US states have passed legislation permitting medicinal use of marijuana in humans under strict guidelines. Some states have even passed laws permitting its recreational use.

“These state laws are in direct opposition to federal law, so it is important for veterinarians to understand and be able to communicate marijuana’s legal status with our clients. The danger of marijuana toxicity in companion animals makes it even more important that veterinarians be able to diagnose and treat cases.”

But a new report, published in November 2017, and reported in Forbes Magazine said, “A World Health Organization (WHO) report has found no adverse health outcomes but rather several medical applications for cannabidiol, a.k.a. CBD, despite US federal policy on this cannabinoid chemical.

According to a preliminary WHO report published last month, naturally occurring CBD is safe and well tolerated in humans (and animals), and is not associated with any negative public health effects.”
So there you have it. New York is trying to pass legislation to allow veterinarians the option to treat pets with marijuana. As the discussion continues, only time will tell what will be available for pet owners in the Constitution state.

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